Representative Benson Votes to Pass Addiction Legislation to Enhance Care and Prevention Efforts

BOSTONState Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives on Wednesday to pass substance addiction legislation that creates a new standard to evaluate and treat patients who present in emergency rooms with an apparent overdose. This new best practice, which will be covered by insurance, is designed to ensure proper assessment and discharge of patients who seek voluntary treatment.

The bill limits first-time opiate prescriptions to seven days for adults and all opiate prescriptions for minors to seven days, with exceptions for chronic pain management, cancer, and palliative care. Additionally, practitioners must check the prescription monitoring program (PMP) each time they prescribe any opiate and correspondingly make a note in the patient’s medical records.

“We are in the midst of a public health crisis that is draining vitality from our hometowns, extinguishing lives and stealing souls,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “The House has crafted legislation and budgets that complement each other and set a foundation for continual improvement. I’m proud of that strategy, especially our emphasis on consensus-building. I wholeheartedly thank my colleagues and Chairs Malia, Dempsey and Sánchez for their creative, unassuming and compassionate commitment to paving a path for the recovery of thousands of our loved ones, and in fact, a path for our wounded Commonwealth.”

“I was proud to vote for this legislation,” said Representative Benson. “I have heard from a number of constituents whose families have been affected by addiction and overdose, and while this bill can’t bring back those who have been lost to the epidemic, it can help ensure that addicts get the treatment they need. This is groundbreaking legislation that focuses on all aspects of substance abuse, and it will offer our communities more resources to stem the tide of addiction.”

In an effort to build upon current prevention efforts, the legislation updates current law, requiring all public schools to have a policy regarding substance abuse education by requiring schools to report their plans to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). DESE will then consult with the Department of Public Health (DPH) to provide recommendations that will assist schools and ensure they are providing effective and up-to-date education. Additional education materials will be provided to all student-athletes.

From its discussions with numerous stakeholders and recovery groups, the House recognizes the importance of empowering individuals as they grapple with addiction. As a result, this bill establishes a non-opiate directive form, allowing patients to include a notation in their records that they shall not be offered opiates. It also requires that patients being discharged from substance addiction programs receive information on all FDA-approved medication-assisted therapies.

Over the past few years, the House’s efforts related to substance addiction have focused on behavioral health and the prevalence of co-occurring disorders. This legislation requires the Health Policy Commission to conduct a study on access to dual-diagnosis treatment in the Commonwealth for children, adolescents and adults. To help ensure parity between behavioral and physical health care, the legislation also requires insurance companies to report annually on their denied claims.

This bill also:

  • Requires that contact information for all insurers be posted on the bed-finder tool website and updates the law to ensure the site is available 24 hours a day;
  • Ends the practice of sending women who are civilly committed for alcohol or substance-use disorders to MCI-Framingham;
  • Ensures civil-liability protection for individuals who administer Narcan;
  • Updates the training guidelines for all practitioners who prescribe controlled substances;
  • Establishes the Massachusetts Council on Substance Use Disorder Prevention and Treatment, which will help the Commonwealth understand and confront addiction in a unified way.

This legislation follows a 65.2% increase in substance addiction funding since FY12 and the landmark substance addiction law passed in 2014 which, for the first time, mandated detox and stabilization coverage. The two bills are intended to complement each other and reflect a consensus-driven approach.